Scientists at the University of Utah Health have found that delivering a nutritional supplement in older mice restores a youthful ability to adapt to the cold.
“We uncovered a well-controlled process for mobilizing energy to the tissues that need it,” Claudio Villanueva, senior author of the study and assistant professor of Biochemistry at U of U Health, said in a release. Expanding on these findings could lead to a therapy for cold sensitivity, the release said.
The supplement, L-carnitine, allows older mice to tolerate chilly conditions that usually trigger hypothermia, the university said in the release.
The supplement works by "boosting levels of a newly discovered fuel source for brown fat, a 'good fat' that generates body heat in response to the cold,” according to an online report in Cell Metabolism.
“This work is putting a new face on an old character,” Judith Simcox, lead author and postdoctoral fellow, said in the release. “We’re changing how we think about cold-induced thermogenesis.”
The cold adaptation process might also lead to fighting obesity Simcox said.
“The idea is to increase fuel utilization to drive the energy demanding process of adapting to the cold,” Villanueva said. “If we can find a way to tell the body to expend more energy than it is taking in, the calories lost can lead to weight loss.”